Partnership of Fund, RPI, IBM, Draws National Attention to Lake George
If one goal of the Jefferson Project, the new partnership of IBM, RPI and the Fund for Lake George, is to support Lake George’s economy by preserving its pristine clarity, by some measures, it’s already succeeding.
Nearly 100 news outlets around the globe have carried stories about the project, which will collect data about the lake, process that information and then use it to make better informed decisions about how best to reverse declining trends in water quality.
According to Eric Siy, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George, “the plan to make Lake George the smartest lake in the world has already put us on the map in a whole new way. Everyone is interested in sustainability, in leveraging environmental protection with economic development, but we’re showing how it can be done.
“The Jefferson Project has already thrown a real spotlight on Lake George and brought it the kind of attention it deserves,” said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover. “It affirms the relevance and importance of Lake George to a national audience.”
The Jefferson Project was unveiled at a June 27 news conference at the Sagamore, where RPI president Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, IBM global research director Dr. John Kelly and Eric Siy, the executive director of The Fund for Lake George, discussed its implications for the development of new technology, the advancement of scientific research and the strengthening of local, lake protection efforts.
“This is a great day for Lake George, for this community and for environmental protection,” said Kelly. “We’re asked why we chose Lake George for this project. First, it’s a beautiful environment. But it’s also the perfect size. Lake George is big enough to have complex problems, but it’s also small enough to study. Located at the northern end of Tech Valley and at the southern edge of the Adirondack Park, it also provides us with access to natural resources and to the brain power that will enable us to do amazing things.”
According to IBM’s Dr. Harry Kolar, 45 platforms, with approximately a dozen sensors each, will be deployed around the lake to gather data about weather, water chemistry and currents.
Those sensors “will collect and transmit ten times the amount of data compiled by Darrin Fresh Water Institute researchers for The Fund for Lake George over a thirty year period,” said Kelly.
The historical information and the data streaming in from sensors “will be mashed up” by IBM’s supercomputers, said Deborah McGuiness, a professor of Computer Science at RPI.
According to Jackson, RPI will build a new facility at Darrin Fresh Water Institute to house “a new, Smarter Water laboratory and visualization studio.”
In the studio, a monitoring system will give scientists a view of three-dimensional circulation models in Lake George, the first ever to be created. Those models will enable scientists to understand how currents distribute nutrients and contaminants around the lake, as well as the relationships between contaminants and particular stressors, such as road de-icing agents.
“Lake George has a lot to teach us, if we look closely,” said Jackson. “By expanding Rensselaer’s Darrin Fresh Water Institute, we are creating a global model for environmental research and protection of water resources.”
“These big monitors will display what’s happening in real time, in the water, on the land and in the air,” said Siy. “We can see pictures of the current and future computer modeled conditions, water chemistry, and health of the natural systems.”
Eric Siy noted, “We are now in a better position than ever to not only understand the lake’s problems, we are also in a better position than ever to create solutions. The new technologies will help us determine which remediation strategies will be most effective.”
Jackson displayed a rendering of the new laboratory building, which was created by the Glens Falls-based JMZ architects. One of its managing principals, Tenee Rehm Casaccio, is a resident of Bolton Landing.
As many as ten people will be working in the new research building to be constructed at the Darrin Fresh Water Institute, and according to John Kelly, those positions will create additional jobs.
“The multiplier effect from technology is high,” said Kelly. “We would expect to see five to ten new jobs created for every high tech position.”
According to Michael Consuelo, the executive director of the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce, Lake George’s reputation as a research center is likely to become a draw in itself.
“We can open ourselves up to new markets, attracting interest from a different sort of visitor, people who are interested in this kind of research,” said Consuelo. “And we’re showing the general public that we’re doing everything we can to protect the lake. The more local businesses understand this project, the more they’ll support it.”
For the collaborators of the Jefferson Project, the attention drawn to Lake George by the June 27 announcement is just the beginning.
“Our goal at the Sagamore was to introduce the project to the region; if it became a national story, that wasn’t unwelcome, but it was not intentional,” said Mike Fay, a vice president for communications at IBM. “What will drive this story will be the results of the Jefferson Project. ”